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15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

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Contributed by 
Trooper Tom Canning - WW2 Site Helper
People in story: 
Smoky Smith Walter Pollard.
Location of story: 
Northern Italy
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
16 November 2004


We should know that all details of an event is seldom reported in full either in the media or in the history books,and so one should take the witness account of most matters as being closer to the truth bearing in mind the effects of the inevitable march of time on one’s memory

The story I am about to relate is hearsay, as at the time of these actions I was in various Hospitals from 18th September 1944 until the middle of January 1945, and it was not until I returned to duty at the Tank depot at Rieti that I was told the story by survivors of our regiment.

It is about two ordinary blokes.

The first is a Canadian, born in New Westminster in B.C. who joined the Seaforth Hghlanders of Canada and marched with them from the beaches of Sicily until the end of the war in Europe . He had survived all the battles and now after the Gothic line, his battalion was fighting in the approaches to the Po River valley which, as you might know, is criss crossed with many small and large rivers all feeding the Po delta and the Lago Commachio, on the edge of the Adriatic Sea. This ground was extremely unsuitable for British - or American Tanks, but favourable to the German Panthers and Tigers as they had much wider tracks and had the added benefit of night sights which allowed them to operate in the dark !

The Seaforths "C' Company Commander was a real estate executive from Vancouver by the name of Budge Bell-Irving who had decided that my friends section should be equipped as Tank busters with PIAT's ( Projectile, Infantry, Anti- Tank) and Thompson submachine guns. One night they were detailed to cover their “A” company who were being held up by the very swollen River Savio as the “monsoons” had already started some two weeks before, and to search and destroy any Panthers which were known to be roaming around the area. This did not take too long and they were attacked by a Panther which wounded one of the section n.c.o's whereupon my friend picked up the PIAT , fired a shot , and knocked out the Panther, using his tommy gun he then scattered and killed many of the following platoon of Panzer Grenadiers. Two more Panthers appeared and one was fired at,the third took off, and in the panic to remain whole, the second Tank was reversed into a ditch where the crew bailed out considering obviously that discretion is the better part of valour !

For Valour - Ernest "Smoky " Smith.... was awarded the Victoria Cross

... the date ..23rd October '44.... the second anniversary of El Alamein and start of the victorious march of the 8th Army from Egypt to the Alps. As a well known film star might say - notta lotta people know that , and we who are left must not forget it either ! "Smoky" might get half a page in the History books. He does however enjoy a place on most excursions of the Governor General and the Prime Minister’s delegations overseas , he is still full of wit and enjoys meeting people and laying the Seaforth’s wreath at the Vancouver Cenotaph each year.

My other friend was an Englishman from Yorkshire who had his pipe permanently clenched between his teeth, and was the despair of our Sergeant Major who was forever telling him to put his pipe in his pocket as an Officer might see him. Everyone knew of this habit and just ignored it and got on with the job in hand.

-- 2 --

The day after "Smoky" won his V.C. the Panther which had ended up in the ditch was recovered and presented by the Seaforths to "A" squadron 145th Regt. R.A.C. and after a good clean and check up was used against it's makers until the ammunition ran out. Before that however, my friend who was the gunner of this captured Panther took great joy in stonking the enemy with their own 19 foot long barrelled special 75mm gun !

One day at around refuelling this Panther my friend was carrying two Jerricans of fuel, and as always, with his pipe in his mouth, when he tripped a schu mine. He died on the way to the Casualty Clearing Station (CCS).

His name .…… Walter Pollard.……………… the date .... 11th November 1944


You won't find Walters name anywhere near a History book, but it is recorded on a marble headstone in the British cemetery at a place called

Cesena, in Northern Italy !

Two ordinary blokes, doing extraordinary tasks, in extraordinary ways !
It is with great regret that I add that

Ernest " Smokey" Smith

died on wednesday 3rd August 2005 in Vancouver British Columbia at the age of 91 - he was the last Canadian holder of the V.C. from WW2.Like the old soldier that he was - he simply faded away !

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Two Great Men

Posted on: 17 November 2004 by Peter - WW2 Site Helper


Yet another superb contribution from you. As always, well written, informative, and interesting.

I particularly like your equating a VC holder with a routine, unrecorded until now, death of an equally valiant comrade. The juxtaposition is salutary and we should always remember the unsung heroes as well as the gallant medal winners.

Kindest regards,


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